Building Healthy Relationships
Health and Well-Being The Bibleway

by Larry C. Hamner

August 1, 2006

Open The Book

Any individual who has health and wellness as a goal will accomplish little unless healthy relationships are somewhere near the head of their agenda. Unhealthy relationships are major contributors to the stresses of everyday life. A stressful lifestyle will have a direct and harmful effect on ones health. Chronic stress situations, can affect many organ systems, cause anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors. A number of other health related issues such as eating disorders, heart disease, stomach ulcers, have also been linked to high levels of stress. In a word healthy relationships make for good health. Interpersonal skills are fundamental to fostering healthy relationships with parents, siblings, friends, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, professors, roommates or whomever we associate with on a personal level. Unfortunately we all have major traits and characteristics which adversely affect these relationships. These may consist of aggressive behavior, bitterness towards others, insensitivity to others, intolerance for shortcomings of others, anger and the likes of which will create problems in any relationship. In order to make significant strides towards a healthy and wholesome lifestyle we all must make meaningful behavioral changes. Not just changes that make us feel good but changes that will lead to both emotional and physical well-being. Although the bible is often overlooked as a source for information on how to build healthy relationship, it is the ultimate source for understanding human relations. Open the book and narratives, chronicles, fairy tales, yarns, anecdotes, stories and instructions abound; each tailored to help you get the most out of your relationship with God and neighbor.

We're Only Human

The old adage of “that's just the way I am” does nothing to nurture a relationship. On the contrary, the battle we most often fight is not with others but with ourselves, we can all be irrational, stubborn, emotional, and altogether wrong. The sum total of who we are will either adversely or favorably affect our relationships with others. Not because of our actions on any particular day, but because we establish over a number of days a general pattern of behavior. The bible provides some poignant insights about human nature that we must be mindful of.

“All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.” (Prov. 16:2 KJV)

“All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.”(Eccl. 6:7 KJV)

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Rom. 7:18-21 KJV)

Each of these inherent traits presents many opportunities for us to be involved in dysfunctional interactions which create stress filled relationships. Recognizing the need for behavioral change is a key element in building healthy relationships.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1Jo 1:8-10 KJV)

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” (Mat. 7:3-5 KJV)

As human beings we are acutely aware of the faults in others, however, our focus should be on overcoming our own failures and shortcomings. It also human nature to embrace the idea that we can control the actions of others, when in fact we as individuals can exercise little if any control over others. It's at this juncture that I should recommend an array of self-help-books, workshops, and/or discussion groups that specialize in the art of interpersonal skills and relationships. This is not to disparage nor dismiss the important contribution that can be made by each of these approaches in changing unwanted behavioral traits. However, God has provided for his people an agent for change, which is not only able to modify untoward behavior but will also change our very nature.

A Wonderful Change

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to empower us with the strength of character and spiritual integrity that promote harmonious and healthy relationships. The development of successful relationships, in all arenas of life, is the stimulus to ones overall success, fulfillment, and joy. For most of us, however, it's a lifelong process learning how to better live in peace with our friends, neighbors and families. Rather than undertaking this daunting task we look for the perfect partner who in turn will make us happy. This approach fosters the idea that happiness is something to grasp for, or to attain. That happiness is located somewhere outside of you. Consequently it becomes the responsibility of others to make us happy. When in reality each of us is responsible for our own happiness and well-being. The bible teaches us that the indwelling Holy Spirit will infuse us with joy that cannot be adequately described in human terms.

“He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:38-39KJV)

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14 KJV)

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” (John 15:11 KJV)

“And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 13:52 KJV)

Developing and fostering good relationships is not so daunting a task when the Holy Spirit is the source of our happiness. The Holy Spirit blesses us in such away that we are not looking for happiness in our relationships, but are looking to share it there. Not only will you be physically and emotionally affected by its presence in your life, but others will marvel at the wonderful change that has come over you. It is so easy to fall prey to the trap of believing that a relationship would improve if your partner would only change. The truth of the matter is that it takes the power of the relationship out of your hands and puts it into the hands of another. Whose life do you live? Why not let the Holy Spirit teach you effective, efficient and proven biblical ways of handling day-to-day relations. It will enable you to actualize personal potential into a higher quality of life at work, at home and in your community.

Let's Talk About it

We all need clear effective ways of communicating our feelings, beliefs and needs to others. Remember that self-help-book, workshop, and or/discussion group that I mentioned in an earlier conversation. There is no doubt that at this point they would be touting the notions that clear effective communication is the key to successful relationships. Let me not minimize nor trivialize the fact that the quality of our communication is always important, and increased skillfulness offers many benefits. But it is likely that our workshop and the likes thereof left out a very essential component to quality communications, i.e. the ethical or moral factor. Once again they are trumped by the bible and its teachings. Contrary to popular belief, I must sadly report the lack of communication is not the problem. Whether it is our intention to or not to we communicate at all times. With a simple glance, stare, snarl, or turn of the head, or if we simply clam-up and say nothing we communicate. The good news is that, if we know this we can become more mindful of our actions and look for ways to increase our skillfulness and quality of communication. Communication is not always good but it is powerful! We must respect the fact that with our speech we can heal, kill, or destroy! Let's not under estimate the power of the tongue but let's embrace and understand it, and let its use be governed by biblical principles. Now let's take a glance at some of the bible's teachings on ethical and moral communication.

What we say can have a profound effect on others, therefore, we must always be cognitive of how we say what we say. A little kindness in our voice and our choice of words will often take the heat out of an else wise red hot relationship.

“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Col. 4:6 KJV)

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Pro 15:1 KJV)

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Prov. 25:11 KJV)

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” (Pro 16:24 KJV)

Most successful communicators know that communications is an art, not a science. They recognize that beyond all the sophisticated theories, strategies and tactics, communication is ultimately about intangible things such as timing, intuition, and passion. Timing is a critical component to the art of effective communication, so we must pay close attention to when we say what we say.

“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Prov. 15:23 KJV)

Talkers are often needy people who attempt to satisfy their emptiness by trapping people into listening to them. How much we say is equally as important as when and how we say what we say.

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” (Pro 10:19 KJV)

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.” (Prov. 17:27)

“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” (Pro 21:23 KJV)

“For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.” (Eccl. 5:3 KJV)

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36 KJV)

Effective communication involves targeting your message to your intended audience. This involves knowing, the demographics, interests, and needs of your audience. We must be acutely aware of to whom we are speaking and in turn who is speaking to us.

“The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.” (Psa. 55:21 KJV)

“For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.” (Psa. 59:12 KJV)

“Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:” (Psa 64:3 KJV)

“To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;” (Prov. 2:16 KJV)

“Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.” (Pro. 23:9 KJV)

We damage people by speaking ill of them, but the greatest victim of slander is the speaker. A person who spreads malicious rumors will never have wholesome or healthy relationships and can cause the relationships of those that befriend them to flounder.

“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:16 KJV)

“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” (Pro 11:13 KJV)

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” (Prov. 18:8 KJV)

“He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” (Prov. 20:19 KJV)

“The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” (Prov. 25:23 KJV)

“Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” (Prov. 26:20 KJV)

Never say anything that God does not approve of. What we utter from the mouth is an expression of what is really in the heart. If we do not choose our words wisely the Spirit of God is greatly grieved.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45 KJV)

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psa. 19:14 KJV)

“Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” (Psa. 34:13 KJV)

“Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.” (Prov. 29:20 KJV)

“Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” (Eccl. 5:2 KJV)

Minding ones own affairs makes for good relationships. Don't be quick to interject yourself in the conversations of others.

“Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:” (Eccl. 7:21 KJV)

It is inherent in the power of our words to create images, which can generate healing effects or open deadly wounds. We must always respect the power of the tongue, and take care to use it as an instrument for healing.

“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.” (Prov. 12:18 KJV)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”” (Prov. 18:21 KJV)

“He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flattereth with the tongue.” (Prov. 28:23 KJV)

“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:” (1 Pet 3:10 KJV)

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.” (James 1:26 KJV)

“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.

Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:2-8 KJV)

A final word on verbal communication and the importance or the role it plays in healthy relationships. At first glance communication, or the lack thereof, is often touted as being the problem in many a relationship. But with a little scrutiny we will often find it is neither the quantity nor effectiveness of what we say that causes our communication problems. The more likely culprit is our careless and/or unprincipled use of words. We tend to overlook or disregard the fact that our words can either be helpful or harmful, healing or hurting. As Christians we are to guard our words with all carefulness and take a biblically sound and holistic approach to the art of communication.

Be Your Word

Trust is fundamental to human relationships, it is the confidence one person feels toward another. Building trust in a relationship is vital if it is going to be a long lasting healthy and wholesome relationship. In my discussion of trust let me first emphasize that you can trust God totally, He is faithful and consistent in all His ways. However, the same can not be said for any other. Even if God's ways don't make sense to us we can still trust Him. God is the only one in whose hands you can and should totally surrender your will, your ideas, your desires, and your future. God loves you fully and always has your best interests at heart and desires the very best for you. It is through trust that our relationship with God strengthens and our love for Him grows.

“As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.” (Psa. 18:30 KJV)

“Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psa. 37:5 KJV)

“It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (James 3:22-23 KJV)

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5 KJV)

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” (Heb 10:23 KJV)

Trusting another person, however, has to have a certain expectation of failure and thus must be combined with a willingness to forgive. Further more you can't walk into your local supermarket and order a pound of trust-trust grows out of consistent trustworthy actions by the trustee. A person can be deemed trustworthy when they are honest, reliable, just and loyal. The chief thing we should look for in any relationship is trustworthiness. Face it all relationships require work, but intimate relationships such as true friendships, partnerships and marriages should only be entered into with those who have already proven themselves to be trustworthy. Unlike love there should be no trust at first sight.

“Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” (Prov. 20:6 KJV)

“Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” (Prov. 25:19 KJV)

“A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health.” (Prov. 13:17 KJV)

“Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” (Heb 13:18 KJV)

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” (Luk 16:10 KJV)

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thes. 5:21 KJV)

At times one might find it difficult to determine when it is wise to have close interaction with another individual. Ill-considered interpersonal interaction with individuals who are not trustworthy will undoubtedly result in an unhealthy relationship. Outlined below is an intuitive method that I use to determine what kind of relationship I am willing to commit to with an individual.

My prime objective is to determine a person's trustworthiness; are they worthy of my trust? Have they shown themselves to be honest, reliable, fair, impartial, and loyal?

Strangers I have no knowledge of their trustworthiness. Kind and cordial greetings is the extent of my interaction.

Casual Acquaintances I have very little knowledge of their trustworthiness will engage in limited and safe interaction that doesn't put anything I value at risk.

Associates I have been in their company frequently have found them occasionally trustworthy. Will engage in interactions that doesn't put me emotionally at risk or anything that I place a high value on at risk.

A Friend I have known them for quite sometime and have found them to be trustworthy in most circumstances and on most occasions. I deem them worthy of my trust and will commit to them emotionally and materially. A good foundation for a more intimate relationship.

A Partner I have known them for quite sometime and have found them to be trustworthy (as much as is humanly possible) a prime candidate for marriage or other partnerships.

A Nuisance Those who have shown themselves to be Untrustworthy (dishonest, unreliable, unfair, partial, and disloyal). There is no foundation for any kind of meaningful interaction. Cordial greetings is the most they will get.

Note: Family member are measured by the same standard as others.

Trust is the foundation of all successful interpersonal relationships. It begins with effective ethical communication, which leads to understanding, which paves the way for mutual respect, once mutual respect has been established you now have the foundation for a healthy trusting relationship. Each step in this equation for trust is dependent upon the integrity of the individuals involved. Integrity goes further then just keeping agreements it also includes “being your word”. Your actions must measure up to your rhetoric, in other words “walk the talk”, prove it!“A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” (Psa. 15:1-4) How can you build trust where there is deceit? When we show others we aren't, “being our word” its very difficult for them to trust us. In healthy relationships the actions of the participants are always consistent with the expectations agreed to. Your actions are as much a part of you as what you say. A healthy relationship requires that you “be your word”.

The Greatest

Individuals who are involved in healthy relationships are compassionate towards each other. They are sympathetic to each other's hopes, wishes, dreams, and problems if one hurts, the other hurts. One would do anything to avoid hurting the other, because they love each other. Love is more than emotions, and it is surely more than a good feeling. Society has taken what God has said about love, and changed it into simply emotions and feelings. God’s idea of love and man's idea of love are not the same, this is how God defines the love He wants us to experience in our relationships.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1Cor 13:4-8 NIV)

Love is the keeper it is the “connective tissue” that holds all relationships together notwithstanding our human frailties. Love will cause us to change our inappropriate and unhealthy ways. Love will keep what trust has built. Love will season our rhetoric with kindness and graciousness. Love will cause us to willingly share our possessions with others. It is our love for others that will cause positive and lasting change in us. It is the love that others have for us that will cause lasting and positive change in them. Although true love can hold any relationship together; love alone will not produce a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships are built by trustworthy individuals who love each other. When love is shared in a relationship as God intended it-it's the greatest!

A Final Word

With few exceptions we all want wholesome satisfying relationships. Studies show that healthy relationships really can increase happiness and reduce stress. Although other people can help make our lives happier they cannot create happiness for us. Only you through the help of God and the Holy Spirit can fill your life with joy. Truly healthy relationships are God centered and God dependent! Lastly in the words of John the Apostle, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3 Jon. 1:2 KJV)

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